Interview: Lene Bladbjerg

How did you start as an artist?

I came to London in 1996 to study Graphic Design at the London College of Printing (now London College of Communication). After my degree I did some freelance graphic design for a while, but quite quickly realised working in an office wasn’t for me. I started painting and taking close-up photographs of flowers, and then it has moved on from there. I still use my graphic design background in my work and often work with words and pictures together.

How did you come to choose the varied mediums you work in?

I have always used various mediums in my work and I like playing around with ‘found objects’. I like giving things a new life. I have a studio in Crystal Palace where I do my paintings and, once a week, I go to another studio to screen print. I like the balance between the two.

Lene Bladbjerg - It's So Noisy When It's Quiet
It’s So Noisy When It’s Quiet, 2008, acrylic, grout and Letraset on canvas, 76×101.5cm.

How would you describe the evolution of your art over time?

I think my work is always evolving. Since my graphic design days I’ve done painting, photography, and printing. I like trying new things out and people often say my work is very varied, but I can easily see the link between all my work. It just evolves naturally.

Your drawings, as well as your paintings and your screen prints, often exhibit a repetition of shapes (such as buttons) which then are interlaced with a phrase you print on them (such as ‘Push My Buttons’) in order to create new meanings. How would you describe this technique and what is the nature of such exploration?

I have always liked patterns and grids. Even as a kid I would paint patterns all the time. I am quite a collector and definitely not a minimalist, so maybe it’s a way of creating some order. Using text with image is definitely from my graphic design background.

Lene Bladbjerg - Push My Buttons
Push My Buttons, 2008, pen and ink on paper, 30x40cm.

What ideas or relationships have you been engaging with as a graphic designer and a screen printer?

I love words and plays on words. Maybe it’s because I’m from Denmark that I love all the English expressions and idioms. My tutor in college always said, ‘If you can make them smile, you’re halfway there’, and I think that’s very true. My work often has a surprising twist—playing with positivity and negativity.

Lene Bladbjerg - Make My Day
Make My Day, 2015, screen print on paper, 40x50cm.

Butterflies and razors – why that surprising combination?

Using blades actually started as a recycling project. I got a big bucket full of blades from my landlord in my studio (he’s a bookbinder) and I started playing around with them, making different grids and patterns. I like the shapes and the shine of the blades as well as the element of surprise. People often don’t realise they are real blades, because they become something else.

Lene Bladbjerg - Large Green Banded Blue Butterfly
Large Green Banded Blue Butterfly, 2016, acrylic and razor blades, 10x15cm.

And how did you engage with this element of surprise and transformation in your solo exhibitions at the Woolff Gallery, last December, and at The Last Supper gallery this May?

Both exhibitions were based on my ‘blade’ pieces. Often when I do art fairs there’s a big focus on my screen prints as these are more affordable, so it’s so lovely that in a gallery show I can exhibit the bigger pieces. I don’t have space in my studio to have them all out, so it’s great when they all come together in a solo exhibition. You can really take a step back and look at them. At the Woolff Gallery I showed one of my bigger razor blade pieces called Please Touch. At first you don’t see the message, but after a while you realise that some of the blades are black and if you step back it spells out ‘Please Touch’.

Lene Bladbjerg - Please Touch
Please Touch, 2017, razor blades and coloured paper, 90x120cm

Your screen prints engage with new ideas, as well as a reworking of your paintings. Why do you feel the need for this medium and for these revisits?

Many of my screen prints are based on my bigger paintings. I don’t like doing reproduction prints of my works. I create a new design based on the idea, and then handprint a limited-edition screen print from it.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere. Anything can inspire me. Little things I see and hear. I have a sketchbook with me that I draw and write in, as well as bringing my camera. I often go back to my sketchbook and find inspiration for new pictures.

Which individuals have had an impact on the shaping of your artistic imagination?

My sister, Tine Bladbjerg, has had a big impact on me. She’s a jeweller and the one who convinced me to move to England to go to art college. We shared a studio for 13 years until she moved out to open a shop 5 minutes away. My grandmother was also very creative. She would always show us how to make things when we were kids.

What are you working on at the moment? Any future projects?

I’m preparing work for The Other Art Fair in London in October and in New York in November, which I’m very excited about! I’m painting a new collection of my Stanley knife butterflies to bring to the shows and I have just finished a typographic piece using vintage targets. I’m also working on a bigger scalpel piece in yellow colours including gold glitter, which I’m hoping to bring to the London show.

 

* Images reproduced by kind permission of the artist. © Lene Bladbjerg.

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